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November 21, 2017

Kirby Hocutt

Grapevine, Texas

GINA LEHE: Good evening, and welcome to the College Football Playoff Selection Committee teleconference. Joining us tonight is Bill Hancock, executive director of the College Football Playoff, along with Kirby Hocutt, College Football Playoff Selection Committee chair.

KIRBY HOCUTT: Good evening, and happy to Thanksgiving to everyone. We have completed our latest rankings, and it was a week of stability at almost every level.

The committee voted Alabama as the No. 1 team in the nation, after a long discussion and working off a clean sheet of paper, which means that each week we rank these teams based on a full season of performance, not just what happened the prior weekend. The committee took note of Miami's increasingly impressive body of work, its unbeaten record, and it made the Hurricanes No. 2 by a very close margin over No. 3 Clemson. Oklahoma is No. 4; Wisconsin with its win over Michigan is No. 5; and Auburn is No. 6.

We spoke at great length about all of the rankings, No. 1 through No. 25. Thank you to the committee members for their hard work. They watch a lot of games and put in a lot of time. I'm grateful to each of them. If you have any questions, I'm happy to take them.

Q. This may be going down the rabbit hole a little bit too much, but I'm wondering what the committee's reasoning for Mississippi State's two-spot bump was this week. I know they just beat Arkansas and UMass, so I'm curious what they've shown you guys that would warrant the move up to No. 14.
KIRBY HOCUTT: Yeah, we talked at length this week about Mississippi State, and the Selection Committee has been extremely impressed with their tough schedule. They've played an extremely tough schedule, all three of their losses to top-10 teams, Alabama, Georgia, and Auburn. The Selection Committee was impressed with the way they competed against No. 1 Alabama. I think their tough schedule continues to impress the Selection Committee and put them at that No. 14 spot this week.

Q. I was wondering how you're comparing the two-loss teams, specifically Notre Dame because I know they have some bad losses in there, so I'm interested what's the committee's decision on putting them so high and some of the other two-loss teams lower?
KIRBY HOCUTT: Well, we look at each team individually, and compared to maybe one other team, a group of other teams, but we're looking at that individual resume for each team. And Notre Dame, even though they have two losses, they have some impressive wins that the Selection Committee continues to take into account and continues to talk about, wins over Michigan State, an impressive win over Southern California, North Carolina State, as well. Notre Dame has played one of the toughest schedules in the country up to this point in time this season. Even with the two losses there, Notre Dame is still a team that's built a rather impressive resume with one of the toughest if not the toughest schedule in the country. So in the eyes of the Selection Committee, still very deserving and have earned that No. 8 ranking this week.

Q. The UCF being the only Group of Five team that's undefeated, they remained at 15. They don't seem to be getting much traction. Has there been discussion about that, and do you see a scenario where they maybe could move up?
KIRBY HOCUTT: You know, the Selection Committee has spent, I would say, considerable time talking about Central Florida. It's a team the Selection Committee continues to be impressed with. It's a team that is playing exceptionally well on the offensive side of the ball.

I would say it's the schedule. We have gone through in great detail the schedule that Central Florida has played. In comparing it this week we put it side by side with the schedule that Mississippi State has played because Mississippi State holding that No. 14 position, and I just mentioned on the previous question, the three losses that Mississippi State has are to Alabama, Georgia and Auburn, teams 1, 6 and 7 this week. In the Selection Committee's conversations, we're not sure any team in the country would be undefeated if they had to play teams No. 1, 6 and 7 in this week's ranking.

It's that schedule, but the Selection Committee continues to be impressed with Central Florida.

To answer the second half of your question, we don't speculate. We don't look ahead. But we do look forward to having two more opportunities to watch Central Florida play.

Q. I know you guys say that you start from scratch each week, but do you guys ever at all look back on your rankings from the previous week just to make sure that there's some consistency there?
KIRBY HOCUTT: Good question, and the only time that we will pause and reflect is after we lock that week's ranking in. Today it was approximately 11:30 when we locked in this week's top-25 ranking, and at that point in time, we will sit back and we will look at how teams moved compared to the previous week's rankings. So only after the week's ranking is locked in will we take a look back to see how teams may have fared from one week to the other in the College Football Playoff Selection Committee ranking.

Q. In all seriousness, was this the easiest week you guys have ever had?
KIRBY HOCUTT: You know this from sitting through the mocks and covering us like you do, there is so much discussion. We spent considerable time in conversation between teams 1 through 5 this week, and then extending down teams 6 through 11, and we went through all their resumes and their performance and what we saw on the fields last week, and it was considerable discussion. While there no doubt was a lot of stability, I would say it did not lessen the discussion and the focus of the Selection Committee because we do start with a clean sheet of paper and take it very -- take a lot of responsibility to make sure that we get this right because it's important.

Q. When you guys talk about and evaluate Ohio State, I'm curious how you view that Iowa loss against the rest of their resume, and in particular when you talked about this week after Iowa has now lost the last two games since that Ohio State game.
KIRBY HOCUTT: You know, Ohio State has been impressive in their play in the last two weeks, but as you said, the convincing losses that they have -- the two losses they have were in convincing fashion, to Oklahoma earlier in the year and then to Iowa. And yes, that is a bad loss to Iowa that sits there on Ohio State's resume. Not sure what else to say about that. Obviously a talented team. They've played well the last two weeks. But two convincing losses sit there on their resume. Not a lot of separation between Ohio State and Penn State, and I would just say it's the head-to-head match-up that is giving Ohio State that ever slight edge, allowing them to hang on to that slight edge above No. 10 ranked Penn State, who also has a very impressive resume.

Q. I know you talked a little bit about this on TV, but I'd like you to get into it again. Miami moving up past Clemson, I'm wondering how much that may have had to do with some of you talking about reassessing resumes and bodies of work, that may have had to do with some of Clemson's wins getting dinged; North Carolina State losing and falling out of the rankings and maybe even that Syracuse loss looking even worse because Syracuse continues to lose. How much did those things play into making that decision between Miami and Clemson?
KIRBY HOCUTT: Well, they're all taken into consideration. Each week resumes are strengthened or they're weakened, and I would say more than the Selection Committee focusing on Clemson's resume, and you're right, some things that occurred this past weekend could be seen as weakening Clemson's resume, but I'm not sure that was the focus of the Selection Committee. It was more that Miami continues to strengthen their resume. They have shown progress, especially in these last three weeks. These last three weeks they've impressed the Selection Committee. They continue to protect that undefeated record; as I said on TV a few minutes ago, just characteristics of championship-caliber teams. When you get down the way Miami did to Virginia two times, once in each half, and you have the poise and the ability to come back and win in a convincing manner. That is special. That's what special teams do, and I would say it was the Selection Committee's view that Miami strengthened their resume just enough this week to give them that slight edge over Clemson.

Q. With the Wisconsin win over Michigan last week, I was just curious what the separation was like in the minds of the committee between Oklahoma at 4 and the Badgers at No. 5, and how much discussion there was of those two teams at those two points.
KIRBY HOCUTT: Considerable discussion and very close separation between Oklahoma and Wisconsin. We actually put side by side in two-team comparisons every team in the top five of our ranking, and there's not a significant separation anywhere between 1 through 5. Obviously you mentioned Wisconsin's solid win against Michigan. They also have a good win against Northwestern. Only one team has scored more than two touchdowns against Wisconsin. When you think about that 11 weeks into the season, the obvious is they're playing good defense. Wisconsin is a very talented defensive team. They execute their system on offense as well as anybody.

But as we continue to talk about Oklahoma, they are scoring a lot of points, a very talented and fun-to-watch offense, and the two road wins that they have on their resume against Ohio State and Oklahoma State continues to be significant in the eyes of the Selection Committee.

Again, close margins of separation between 1 through 5 and extremely close between 4 Oklahoma and 5 Wisconsin.

Q. South Florida, they are currently, I believe, the only one-loss team not in the rankings. I was wondering where you compare them, especially to the other three Group of Five teams in the rankings?
KIRBY HOCUTT: South Florida is a talented team. It's a team that has been in front of the Selection Committee numerous times over the course of this football season, was in front of the Selection Committee again on Monday and Tuesday morning. We talked about South Florida. It's a team that obviously has put together an impressive resume. It's just their schedule. It's their schedule that I think is placing them just right outside of our top-25 rankings. When you look at -- we look at individual teams, not necessarily what conference they are, but you mentioned the Group of Five. Obviously Central Florida is the top team there, and the Selection Committee is very impressed with Central Florida and how they continue to perform each week. Memphis ranked at 20. Memphis is a team, again, with a big-time offense, a talented quarterback. They've won six straight games, and then just right behind Memphis would be Boise State. That's a team that's playing very well right now to earn that 23 ranking. Boise State is a team that has won seven straight.

But at the same time, South Florida is a team that has been in front of the Selection Committee on a consistent basis and a team that we continue to follow.

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